When parents get divorced or separated, there is a tremendous amount of strain put on their new relationship and many times this becomes extremely difficult to handle. In turn, the focus on the children’s mental and emotional health is greatly diminished. That’s why it is extremely important for the parents to transform their relationship, which I call restructuring. It is imperative that parents learn how to co-parent in their new relationship, but imagine how difficult this is for a couple deciding to end their relationship together.
One parent has moved out of the family home and the children are trying to adjust to the non-custodial/custodial parent arrangement. In addition, many times children experience hostility and violence when their parents communicate creating tension in their environment and causing anxiety a child cannot verbalize. Without proper communication from the parents or outside help, many different types of behavior issues in children manifest, such as anger, insecurity, depression and anxiety. Although there is little evidence that divorce causes clinical depression in children, there is concern that divorce leaves children feeling lonelier, less protected and more stressed-filled. Often these symptoms and behaviors effect the children in school, in social situations and in the home. When the divorce or separation occurs during the child’s early development, the child exhibits behaviors that indicate an attempt to control their environment, since it has been disrupted. Young children display behaviors of opposition or use inappropriate words, despite being told not to. When schools and psychologists are not made aware of the new situation or given vital information, the child ends up with a diagnosis of ADD or ADHD and is sentenced to a label and medication, damaging self-esteem and causing medical side effects.
Children need to feel they have some consistency in their lives. Parents who have recently undergone or are going through a separation have to step-up and admit that they are responsible for their child’s ill-behavior. The lack of understanding of their children’s behavior issues is an acute result of both parents’ emotional reaction to their deteriorating marriage. The children’s behavior in this situation is the smoke alarm and often times the parents do not see or hear the smoke alarm because they are caught up in their own dilemma and trying to stabilize themselves after the loss of their relationship. It may be too much for them to find the professional support the family needs to preserve its basic foundation amidst the rubble. When a marriage dissolves and there are children involved no one ever gets away unscathed. This does not mean all children suffer irreparable damage, because some children develop resiliency.